LinkedIn vs IBM: Who’s the Real Cloud Marketing Contender?

It makes sense for CRM heavy-weights to continue the migration of marketing applications and infrastructure to the cloud, but the real challenge is actual customer engagement. The battlefield is not your CRM system, it’s the platforms and networks where customers are already engaging, like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

LinkedIn a Cloud Marketing contenderOnce again, marketers are being led to dials and dashboards, Now in the Cloud!, when they’re struggling to figure out how to actually engage with customers in the constantly disrupted world of online media.

Markets today are creating and recreating themselves in loosely-knit web-based communities on social networks, where the tools and data available to help target and drive engagement are far more compelling than anything you’ve got in your CRM database. Yes, you have unique transactional data, which is invaluable for descriptive and predictive analytics, but that’s insight to help drive engagement—it is not engagement itself.

Beyond banner ads and sponsored updates, how do you actually engage with customers and prospects online? They’re already on LinkedIn, talking and debating the challenges in their business. They’re already on Facebook, talking about everything they love and hate. Better to be there, engaging in those discussions, instead of managing email blasts and registration forms and cross-channel mix strategies to try and “capture” prospects, so you can email them some more.

Personally, I think LinkedIn with the right vision and leadership would be a formidable Cloud Marketing contender, particularly for B2B companies. If LinkedIn had integrated CRM, the advantages would be tremendous:

  • ? ? ? customer profiles are far more complete and up-to-date than your marketing lists will ever be
  • ? ? ? behavioral analytics are more timely and compelling than your marketing profiles
  • ? ? ? segmentation and targeting is far more consistent and accurate
  • ? ? ? engagement doesn’t require registration forms

In this paradigm, marketing infrastructure is just the networking platform where your prospects and customers are connecting, leaving marketers to focus on the content and purpose of engagement—not just ads and updates, but participating in meaningful market dialog about customer needs and desires.

But LinkedIn seems to entirely miss the idea that they could be a serious Marketing Cloud contender, and are instead content to dink around the edges of marketing enablement while focusing more on pushing advertising sales. Meanwhile, despite all the investment going into the Marketing Cloud by companies like IBM and Salesforce, real integration with platforms where customers are spending their time is a pipe dream. Sure, you can automate your canned updates to Twitter and suck down your statistics, but that isn’t customer engagement, and it’s really poor marketing. But hey! It’s in the cloud!

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